It is common to think about the origins of the moving image as if these were set in the age of mechanical reproduction. However, the roots of film are not exclusively historical, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. While motion pictures emerged as an extension of photography (as well as other related technologies) from the nineteenth century onwards, this development merely accounts for their technical history and does not offer sufficient insight into the ontological nature of film. Stanley Cavell, the American philosopher, addressed this issue when he wrote that science presents itself in the movies as if it was magic, but at the same time we must not forget that magic is one of the sources from which science was born, and indeed also film. Cavell’s proposal raises a fundamental question: Does the act of exposing the technical or organic mechanism at the origin of movement (that of images as well as the body) spoil the sense of illusion or the magical power of an artwork, or can these two aspects coexist? The exhibition Elements at Hensen House in Jerusalem sets out to explore this dilemma. The show includes two filmic works and several collages and paintings by Sharon Etgar and Anat Gutberg that seek to explore the idea of creation as it comes into expression in the mythology of the moving image as well as the pivotal role of fragmentation and deconstruction in this mythology.

Elements emerged from an ongoing conversation and a collaborative inquiry conducted by Etgar and Gutberg into a range of visual materials and filmmaking techniques. The two video works in the exhibition offer a useful entry point to gain a preliminary overview of the exchange. Etgar’s film, Light, Nothingness, End, began as an experiment in which the artist set out to translate her visual experience of familiar mechanical objects from the domestic environment into moving image using a video camera in Negative Mode. The film is based on documentation of a ceiling fan that generates unexpected formal and rhythmic compositions despite its fixed rhythmic movement in space. As a result of the object’s speed, its intrusion to light and the Negative Mode of the camera, an unrecognised amorphic body emerges in the film, beating and changing shape. At some point in the film, a straight line appears as if from nowhere and begins to penetrate the circular surface, disappearing and re-emerging again. The repeated action resembles the process of fertilisation and eventually leads the main mass to split in two.


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